Understanding fisheries through hands-on experience

Students at the Muckleshoot Indian School are combining fisheries science with hands-on experience by hanging a gillnet.

“We teach a fairly straightforward fisheries science class,” said Ben Price, a teacher at the Muckleshoot school. “We cover the life cycle and ecology of salmon, the usual type of thing you would expect to find in a high school science class.” The class also covers the legal side of fishing, including the Treaty of Medicine Creek and U.S. v. Washington (the Boldt decision).

“This class shows us that we should have respect for the salmon,” said Avery Brown, a student at the Muckleshoot school. “Salmon don’t just end up on the plate, we learn where they come from.”

The unfinished gillnet is laid between two tables in the middle of the classroom. On either table are spools of line. The first is a cork line, which holds foam floats and keeps the net afloat. The other is a lead line, which keeps the net properly positioned in the water. An improperly constructed gillnet can become tangled, twist, roll or simply not fish efficiently.

Each student in the class has the opportunity to work on the net. The process includes tying knots along the cork or lead line to attach the net’s mesh. There is a precise arrangement and knot-tying technique for each line, depending on how the gillnet will be deployed.

Price said that he spent hours researching how nets are made online. But like his students, it was hands-on experience that was the most helpful to him. “The first net we hung, it was actually a student that taught me how to do it,” Price said.

After the class finishes the net, it will be donated to a Muckleshoot fishing family. “I think it’s awesome that we’re putting together a net that is going to be used by a fisherman,” Brown said.